How is the construction of a dam over the Nile river causing tensions between nations?

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The Nile hydropower project, known as The Grand Renaissance Dam, has been at the centre of a decade-long complex dispute involving several countries including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The 145-meter-tall (475-foot-tall) hydropower project was started by Ethiopia.

Given the dam’s location on the Blue Nile tributary, it would allow Ethiopia to gain control of the flow of the river’s waters. Blue Nile is a tributary of the Nile river and it carries about two-thirds of the river’s water volume and most of the silt.

The Dispute :-

  • The Grand Renaissance Dam hydropower project being constructed by Ethiopia, will be Africa’s largest. While the main waterways of the Nile run through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt, its drainage basin runs through other countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopia began construction of the dam in 2011 on the Blue Nile tributary that runs across one part of the country.
  • Egypt has objected to the construction of this dam.
  • Sudan has found itself caught in the midst of this conflict.
  • The US has stepped in to mediate.

The Concerns :-

  • Ethiopia’s mega project on the Nile could allow the country to control the river’s waters.
  • Egypt lies downstream and is concerned that Ethiopia’s control over the water could result in lower water levels within its own borders.
  • Egypt depends on the Nile for approximately 97% of its drinking water and irrigation supplies.
  • The dam would jeopardise food and water security and livelihoods of ordinary Egyptian citizens.
  • Sudan too is concerned that if Ethiopia were to gain control over the river, it would affect the water levels Sudan receives.
  • Sudan is likely to benefit from the power generated by the dam.
  • The regulated flow of the river will save Sudan from serious flooding in August and September. Thus, it has proposed joint management of the dam.

Egypt has announced that it is willing to resume negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan concerning the dam. The latest round of talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt occurred with South Africa observing the proceedings in its role as the current head of the African Union’s rotating council, in addition to other international observers. Despite previous talks, the point of contention hasn’t changed.

Egypt and Sudan are concerned about the filling and the operation of the dam. Ethiopia continues to insist that the dam is required to meet the needs of its population and has said that downstream water supplies will not be adversely affected.